Good Ol' Review: Maine Mendoza's Charm and Stunning Cinematography Lift Otherwise Unimaginative Imagine You & Me

A film review with minor spoilers.

On the eve of the premiere of Destined To Be Yours, Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards’ first primetime teleserye (arguably, a year late), let’s take a quick look at their first headlining project, the film Imagine You & Me.

There’s no need to rehash how Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards’ #AlDub pairing lit up Philippine pop culture. Though it might be important to point out that Imagine You & Me came later than it should have. The film was the pair’s first official headliner outside of Eat Bulaga‘s Kalyeserye. There were high expectations from both their fans and their “haters” (as Eat Bulaga regularly called those who were not swept up in the hashtag fever).

Unfortunately, Imagine You & Me turned out to mostly be unimaginative fluff and a huge waste of potential. It appears the main goal was to merely have Alden and Maine in a feature length movie without any consideration for anything else.

The basic premise of the film (an OFW falls in love in a foreign country) is okay enough. But the treatment felt more like a one-off television anthology episode than a feature film.

It felt too much like an ordinary story overall, yet separate parts worked better on their own.

Specifically, the story of Gara (Mendoza) as a happy, young and hardworking OFW in a foreign country and the story of Andrew (Richards) and his terminally ill ex-girlfriend/almost-fiancé Isay (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) worked much better separately than any overarching love story between Gara and Andrew.

That’s certainly not a good thing when the film is supposed to be a showcase for the chemistry between Mendoza and Richards. Yet they spend half the film apart from each other. And most of the time they are together, it felt more like an extension of Eat Bulaga‘s Kalyeserye instead of an original story.

The film’s main story hinged on the audience already having been invested in Alden and Maine, the loveteam, instead of the characters of Gara and Andrew. And just the mere fact the film exists is probably enough for many fans.

But the film presents a lost opportunity for something greater. Especially when it has a couple of parts that would easily help make that happen.

Not the least of which is Maine Mendoza. She is absolutely charming in the film. While she definitely felt like a rookie when it came to heavy drama situations (of which there are almost far too many), she still came across as natural and bright. For her first lead film role, she was able to translate much of the personality she had already exhibited elsewhere that gained her millions of fans. She also showed that she certainly has a future in the industry, at least based on her talent and room to grow. It is not hard to like and want to root for her when you see her on screen.

Meanwhile, Alden Richards had some opportunity to remind people of his dramatic acting talents that already drew him compliments pre-AlDub. From his breakout role in One True Love to a career performance as Jose Rizal in Ilustrado, Richards was known for his dramatic prowess which has since been pushed to the backburner in favor of a simpler, pa-tweetums image.

He made much more of an impact in the film in the dramatic, emotional moments he shared with Jasmine Curtis-Smith (who was underused, but did great with what she got) than he did in scenes of lip-syncing in the car or cliché dialogue with Mendoza and even cliché stepson, “You’re not my real mother” scenes with Irma Adlawan as his stepmother.

In that sense, the film failed to capture the magic Mendoza and Richards had on television and use that magic to help them take a step forward in showing just what they’re capable of. The last 15-20 minutes of the film, completely contrived and forced, did more of a disservice to both of them than provided that opportunity.

The other aspect that helped lift an otherwise ordinary film was the cinematography and a very solid use of the stunning and picturesque Como, Italy as a location. Quite often in Filipino television series or films, a foreign, non-Philippine location is used as a way to cover or make up for a poor story or poor acting. In a way, that is the case here as well. But the location was at least more integral to the story being told than most other films.

It’s unfortunate that the film had qualities that could’ve made it truly great. Instead it ended up as a fluffy bit of fan service for the dedicated fans around the world that helped turn the AlDub pairing into an internet and cultural phenomenon. Dropping the ball with the story, wasting Mendoza’s natural charm and underusing the dramatic talents of Richards and even Curtis-Smith, Imagine You & Me should’ve been a much better, deeper and fuller film than it was. But in the end, that doesn’t seem to matter one bit.

In looking back at Imagine You & Me, however, one hopes the series Destined To Be You will not suffer the same creative fate.

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